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A common question asked by women who want to travel is if solo female travel is safe. Some women wonder which destinations are safe and which aren't. Some want to know if they can do it by themselves, even if close friends and family have told them it isn't safe. If you're a woman who has yet to travel solo, it's easy to get caught up in the what-ifs — not to mention potentially talk yourself out of having an amazing solo travel experience.
As a digital nomad, I have traveled full time for three years, in many instances by myself. Solo travel experiences can be rewarding in ways that other experiences aren't: You can push outside of your comfort zone and get to know your inner explorer. On your own, you might be inspired to be more open to life and new experiences. Traveling can be a great education.
So, if you're a hopeful solo female traveler in search of safety tips, here's some hard-won advice that's helped me on all of my journeys.
1. Use taxis and rideshares safely
Most countries have ridesharing apps, like Uber, or their own version of a ride-hailing app you can use to request a taxi. Using Uber or a local app allows your location to be tracked and the fare to be standardized. Furthermore, you can often see ratings for the driver and follow along on the app to make sure you’re heading to your intended destination.
Most importantly, check that the license plate on the car you’re getting into matches the one from the app.
Try to use these apps rather than hailing a taxi on the street. If these apps aren’t available, use authorized taxis from the airport or have your hotel call you a taxi. If you’re staying at a short-term rental, ask the host for taxi recommendations.
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2. Be alert when drinking and dating
Excessive drinking may inhibit your ability to make sound decisions. So if you’re heading out for the night on your own, let a friend or family member know where you’re going. You might even go so far as to share your real-time location via your smartphone.
New York-based traveler Christine Lee routinely lets others know her whereabouts when she’s traveling solo. “Make sure you share your live location with a roommate, friend or family member and/or tell a friend where you’ll be going so that someone knows your location at all times," she says.
Similarly, if you’re going on a first date while traveling, meet in a public place. This way, you can easily leave if you’re not having a good time.
And when you're out at bars or restaurants, don’t leave your drink unattended.
3. Look like you know where you're going
Some destinations are safer than others, but as a general rule, avoid making yourself an easy target. When walking down the street, especially late at night, look like you know where you’re going.
If you’re lost, step into a cafe or store and look up directions on your phone. Have a purse that has a zipper closure and don’t leave it unattended.
Also make sure you have the local emergency numbers for where you're traveling in case something does go wrong. Helen Simkins, who's currently traveling solo in Portugal, abides by this tip.
“Before arriving in a country, always secure its 911-equivalent number in your phone. Keep in mind that 911 isn’t the emergency call number in other countries," she says. "I save the general emergency number, police and hospital number in my favorites for quick access and save the hospital in my maps.”
4. Leave the Rolex at home
While it can be nice to wear your favorite bling, fancy jewelry or watches might draw unwanted attention. If you want to wear jewelry, purchase some costume jewelry to travel with or better yet, buy some local, relatively inexpensive jewelry to wear on the trip. This approach will help you not only blend in, but also look less like a target.
Many incidents of theft are crimes of opportunity; don’t give an offender a reason to consider you an easy target.
5. Use (and hide) your phone strategically
Some cities that are known to be dangerous have a higher prevalence of cell phone theft, especially if there is no Apple store in the country (iPhones are valuable on the local black market). If you’re planning on visiting one of these destinations, get a hidden passport holder belt you can wear around your waist. These little pouches fit inside your pants or skirt and aren't visible. Keep your phone in there.
If you need to make a phone call or look up directions, step into a cafe or shop and use your phone inside.
6. Dress appropriately for the culture
If you're traveling to a conservative country, bring clothing that will allow you to blend in. Be mindful of the culture and traditions of the country so that you don't attract unwanted attention.
Even if you’re going somewhere hot, bring a few pieces of clothing that cover your knees and shoulders so that you feel comfortable venturing out and exploring.
7. Buy a local SIM card to avoid high roaming costs
If you’re traveling internationally, it's smart from a money-saving perspective to purchase a local SIM card for the country you’re going to. Then, you’ll have mobile data and local calling, so you can feel connected. This tip is relatively simple, yet I often hear of people who just use their own U.S.-based phone plan and purchase data.
These U.S. data packs are often expensive and/or don't provide 4G service. People end up putting their phones on airplane mode and using only free Wi-Fi so they save money and don’t use expensive data. Although you can use offline mode for some apps (like Google Maps and Google Translate), you aren’t able to use these services in real time.
Save yourself the hassle and simply buy a local SIM card. You want to be connected to the internet and have access to a phone (without paying high fees) in case you need to make a call, get in touch with friends or change locations at the last minute.
Also, being able to stay in touch with friends and family can help assuage their concerns about your solo travels.
8. Join solo female traveler Facebook groups
Traveling solo doesn’t have to mean being completely on your own for the duration of your trip. There are many Facebook groups geared toward solo female travel, like Girls Love Travel and the Digital Nomad Girls Community, both of which have thousands of members.
Join these groups to connect with other solo female travelers. You can post about where you’re thinking of traveling and get lots of tips from others who have been there. As a bonus, you might also make friends with women who are traveling to the same destinations.
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Finally, enjoy your travels
Solo female travel is an incredibly rewarding experience. Keep these safety tips in mind when you venture abroad so you can have many memorable trips — with or without your friends.
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